Don't you hate it when a company discontinues one of your favorite products? I just got up to speed on a great camera and, BAM, it's discontinued. And as far as I can tell there are no plans to replace it.... What to do?


TTArtisan 23mm f1.4 for L mount on a Leica CL. Wonderful.

You dig through cameras for years and then you find one that really speaks to you. It's small, lightweight and easy to walk around with but at the same time its 24 megapixel sensor, combined with great image processing, gives you about 95% of the quality you get using bigger and much more expensive cameras. You buy one and start working with it and over time come to trust its metering and white balance. Your hands find the right way to hold the camera. You find the best way to attach the camera to you with its strap. You learn the ins and outs of its imaging processes. You can judge battery life almost by intuition. 

And then....the retail universe pulls the rug out from under you and the camera becomes discontinued. Should you decide you want an extra body to incorporate into your small travel system your only recourse, over time, will be the vagaries of the used camera market. And, if my current experience is any indication, good condition-to-mint condition cameras will vanish quickly. 

I thought I would really enjoy the Leica SL2 camera more than any other camera I own. But....for some reason or other I find it to have the least magnetic attachment to me. Oh, it's great for work. The files are incredibly detailed and the dynamic range seems limitless. Even when working with video the camera is a superb commercial tool. But once you've finished shoot your jobs .... that's where the charm of the bigger and heavier system recedes. 

I find that when I need just the right look in a full frame camera for any subject matter that doesn't need to be printed large and with endless detail I actually prefer the "look" of the files I get with the SL cameras. And, if push comes to shove and I really want a specific color and tone palette in full frame that makes me smile every time, it's always the Sigma fp. Not the new fpL with the 61 megapixel sensor but the original 24 megapixel sensor model. 

But all these choices pale in comparison when it comes to choosing a camera to roam around through the streets of a city, or to bring along to a dinner party, or to take on a trip to someplace new. More and more I'm depending on the affable, comfortable, minuscule Leica CL. And a collection of small lenses that leverage its advantages even more.

I always meant to dig into my wallet and splash out for a back-up CL body. I have a TL2 but it's just not the same. I've always had a thing for creating systems based around two matching camera bodies. I dragged my feet when it came to my APS-C Leica. But then that day came last month when Leica announced that they had discontinued the CL. They made it pretty clear in interviews, etc. that they would be stepping away from "cropped" frame cameras to concentrate their efforts on full frame (35mm) sensor cameras. I found myself a bit sad because of the announcement but I hopped onto the web thinking I would track down a new, in the box, second unit to pair with the first one. How difficult could it be?

Well it seems that soon after the announcement people who had always wanted a CL, or people like me who found their first encounter to be a profitable one, rushed (ahead of me) to kill off the remaining inventory at all the big (and small) retailers. I'd see a used body listed at someplace like Camera West (in San Francisco) and by the time I clicked on the product it was already listed as "out of stock." 

After ending up late to the party at a number of online Leica vendors I finally asked one of my favorite shops if they could put me on a list or inform me when they got a nice, clean, relatively unused CL back in stock. 

I got an e-mail yesterday from my favorite Leica Store and I responded as quickly as I could. On Monday the camera will be on its way to me. I guess I should downsize my current inventory of stuff and sell off some of the excess but I don't really want to. I'd rather pull the batteries out of the cameras I am not currently using and put the bodies into temporary storage. Especially since I seem to have a habit of regretting my sales of favorite cameras and then ending up replacing them at more cost to myself down the road.

The Leica CL is very appealing to me for a number of reasons. My very first Leica camera was used Leica IIIf (red dial) that came with the ubiquitous 50mm f3.5 Elmar collapsible lens. That body is an almost exact model for the rounded ends and small size of the CL. In fact, I pulled the IIIf out of the filing cabinet and compared them. I can see exactly where Leica got their inspiration for the CL. They stole the design from...Leica. Steal from the best?

The IIIf was the camera I took with me on a solo trip to Mexico City back in 1980. Loaded with home-rolled Tri-X film it actually returned some very nice negatives. I was happy when I got back to the darkroom and realized that the 50mm had not yet hit its "expiration date." That camera was so small and unobtrusive that I could walk the streets of Mexico City at 2 in the morning, by myself, and never draw attention to me or to the fact that I was out photographing in the middle of the night. 

The digital CL is the direct descendant of those cameras from first 30+ years of Leica's golden period of growth and invention. The just discontinued CL is also a beneficiary of the L mount alliance and there is a range of great lenses available from Leica, Panasonic, Sigma and TTArtisan. Two of my favorites are from the Sigma Contemporary series of lenses. The 56mm f1.4 is an awesomely sharp and precise lens. You can shoot it wide open on a CL and it performs remarkably well. The other Sigma lens that is a tremendous value is the APS-C only 18-50mm f2.8 lens. If you don't need longer focal lengths these two lenses and two camera bodies constitute the most compact and powerful imaging system in all of the L mount camp. Sure, the TL2 is a bit smaller (not by much...) but it lacks the built in EVF which makes the CL so effective for photographers like me. 

I know as I type this that someone will chime in to tell me that I could have gotten any number of cameras with many more "features" or with bigger sensors, or with more resolution, or better C-AF for the same money I spent in getting this bare-bones camera but none of those factors make much difference to me. I have other cameras. They have features and spex galore. What they lack is simplicity and a streamlined approach to casual photography. 

I like the CL for its simplicity and for my dexterity with it. And I think the red dot is cute. YMMV. It usually does. 

I turned the air conditioning down last night and finally got a fabulous night's sleep which greatly improved my overall attitude today. It's still hot outside and a bit forbidding but I can roll with it better now. Added to that was a great swim practice this morning with an old friend in my lane. Fast, smooth, easy and happy. Starting to sound like the Seven Dwarves. 

Get the camera you want. Don't listen to anyone else. Retirement accounts. Pish. Those are for pessimists.